New Era (Windhoek)

Namibia: Senior Citizens? Movement Expands to More Regions

The movement for senior citizens is looking at spreading its reach to more regions of the country. The movement is however hampered by a lack of financial resources needed to travel in order to mobilize pensioners in other regions.

Currently, the welfare movement, which is not yet registered, only operates in 7 of the 13 regions of the country, excluding the four north-central regions, as well as the Caprivi and Kavango regions. The idea of establishing such an organisation, representing pensioners was started by the then Outjo Constituency Councillor, Thomas Sheya and Bernhard Shaanika who is now the Vice President of the Namibia Senior Citizens Movement.

The Deputy Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Theo Diergaardt was elected last year as patron of the Namibia Senior Citizens Movement. "After watching the plight of old people, especially in cases where they had problems, Councilor Sheya came up with the idea," Shaanika related. He said sometimes senior citizens experience problems when they go to hospitals, pay points or even when they have to receive free food.

"So we thought let's start with a representative body, which could be a mouth piece of the old people and since then we never looked back," Shaanka added. He is quick to point out that the movement does not operate on racial, political or religious principles, but basically serves every Namibian pensioner, in any where the movement is represented. According to Shaanika, they educate pensioners about their rights and create conditions that are suitable for the aged.

"We have managed to make them aware that they do not have to pay for hospital services, when they are above the age 60 years. Now their families even don't have to pay for the mortuary when these pensioners die," he revealed. Some pensioners do not even know that they are not supposed to pay for hospital services, hence the movement prides itself for making their members aware of their rights.

Activities in which the movement is involved include tours around the country, concerts and even beauty contests for the elderly, just to keep them busy and entertained. "I can say that alcoholism among our members is also moderate, since we started the movement. Pensioners should also know that they do not have to share their N$550 with their grandchildren and children, as is the case currently," Shaanika added.

He is of the opinion that pensioners need to enjoy a dignified old age, where they do not have to be hungry and neglected. "Similarly government should look after the aged, as they are the ones who brought the country to where we are today." The movement mostly depends on donations from businesses and that is how most of the activities are funded. Shaanika thanked all the businesses, organisations, government agencies and individuals such as the movement's president Benjamin Jagger and its National Coordinator, Abuis Haraseb, who contributed financially and in kind to all the activities carried out to benefit pensioners.

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